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ILMC 34: Inside ticketing’s new normal

International ticketing executives have given a mixed picture on live music markets around the world as the business bids to pick up where it left off pre-pandemic.

ILMC’s Ticketing: All change please! session heard from Ticketmaster UK’s Sarah Slater, Marcia Titley of Eventim Norway & Sweden, John Talbot of AXS Europe, Dice’s Amy Oldham and TicketSwap’s James Fleury, with Michael Hosking of Singapore-based Midas Promotions offering a promoter’s perspective.

Quizzed on the state of play by chair Richard Howle of The Ticket Factory, the panel reported contrasting fortunes to date.

“In Scandinavia, restrictions were lifted in December in Denmark, in January in Norway, and February in Sweden, so we’re about three, four months in,” noted Titley. “When the restrictions were lifted, ticket sales jumped, which was great, we were all thrilled. And then they kind of plateaued.”

“We’re making progress, but it’s slower than I think we all had hoped”

While observing a week-by-week improvement, she added that Covid has appeared to have triggered a change in purchasing habits, with a shift towards buying tickets later in the day.

“They’re waiting, and I think we can all understand why,” she said. “I think we’re all holding our breath a little bit wondering if some new variant’s going to pop up tomorrow. And shows aren’t selling out, so that sense of urgency isn’t there.

“One thing we’re starting to see in Scandinavia as well is uncertainty if shows and festivals are actually going to happen. Just recently, last week, one of our biggest festivals in Norway had to cancel because of Covid complications… So this has also affected consumer behaviour.

“Also, I think we’re trying to find ways to get people to go back to live. I think people have got a little bit stuck on their couches and we need to try to find a way to get them to remember what live was all about. If we can get them into the shows then we will be able to build up that kind of credibility in the market. We’re making progress, but it’s slower than I think we all had hoped.”

“One of the greatest impacts of Covid is it has made people, generally, quite lethargic”

Citing sold-out stadium shows by Justin Bieber in Singapore and Malaysia, Hosking stressed that demand was visible for certain artists, but returned to the theme of audience lethargy.

“The real test will be maybe the B and C-listers,” he offered. “I think one of the greatest impacts of Covid is it has made people, generally, quite lethargic. The old days of having to do everything immediately seems to have waned. And of course, Asia’s not one country, it is several countries and there are still very different restrictions about touring. But Justin is living proof that if the people want you bad enough they’ll go out and buy tickets.”

Talbot, who joined AXS last summer, said the business had faced an “existential threat” and attempted to put its travails into perspective.

“To use a hospitalisation analogy, we were hit by a truck and now we are in the recovery from that period, and it’s not going to happen overnight. We’ve got a cost of living crisis. People can see the alternatives to going out – because they were denied so long, they’ve got other options and they can entertain themselves in different ways.

“We do need to teach the market that going out, congregating, seeing live events is a really, really important part of our culture and they should come back to it. But those challenges are nowhere near as existential as what we were facing only a matter of months ago, so I think there’s a lot of reason to be very cheerful.”

“Half of our customer services activity at the moment is reuniting customers with the tickets they bought in 2019 and 2020”

He added: “We’re finding that a lot of our best customers are holding four or five tickets to shows that are yet to play off… So how do you sell to the market new events, when they’ve already got commitments, and sometimes they’ve forgotten that they’re holding these tickets?

“Half of our customer services activity at the moment is reuniting customers with the tickets they bought in 2019 and 2020. So when that clog disappears, as it will, I think that’s when we can really start to see new on sales not being buffeted by those market forces.”

Slater and Oldham suggested the state of affairs in the UK was more favourable across the board, in part, due to being able to press ahead with a partial festival season in 2021.

Slater, who received the Golden Ticketer gong at the 2022 Arthur Awards, pointed to Ticketmaster’s stellar business in the final quarter of last year.

“We were really able to capture that pent-up demand that the pandemic brought,” she said. “Q4 was absolutely huge: We had Reading & Leeds sell out; Creamfields sell out; we’ve got new sites for festivals; there are lots of tickets out there, but we’re selling all our tickets as well.

“We’re really positive; we were lucky that we got the summer [2021] in the UK, so we’re in a slightly different position to everyone else.”

“People are demanding to have choice and flexibility now when it comes to buying tickets”

“The market’s certainly buoyant,” added Oldham, Dice’s VP of content, Europe. “We had over a million people go out in London last month, which is extraordinary. The place where it’s the most buzzy is with emerging talent – the waitlist for artists like Fred Again is astronomical. People are buying really early because they’ve got the protection of knowing that they can give their ticket back if they can’t go.”

James Fleury of price-capped ‘ethical’ ticket marketplace TicketSwap said the Amsterdam-based firm had already twice broken company records in the first four months of 2022, and backed up Oldham’s point on flexibility.

“People are demanding to have choice and flexibility now when it comes to buying tickets,” he said. “Buying a ticket anymore isn’t necessarily a commitment to attend that specific event. It is for the top four or five artists that I really love, but for the other artists where we maybe like one single or a couple of tracks… I think it’s important that we also promote that flexibility.

“Our challenge this year as a company is to educate both fans, but also partners – promoters and festivals – about why having that choice and flexibility is important on the fans’ side.”

 


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Asia-based execs predict “fruitless” start to 2022

Industry executives in Asia are sceptical about what’s in store for 2022, warning that the ‘groundhog day’ caused by enduring restrictions could long continue.

Speaking in the new issue of IQ, Michael Hosking of Midas Promotions – a leading promoter in South East Asia –  has predicted “another fruitless first three quarters in Asia”.

“But I’m hoping that we can have some shows in the final quarter of 2022… as long as we don’t get hit by the variant,” adds Hosking.

Justin Sweeting, co-founder of Hong Kong’s biggest music festival Clockenflap, shared a similar outlook on the year ahead.

“Stop. Start. Stop. Start. The stuttering groundhog day roundabout continues. I just hope we can get the proper opportunity to show that not only can events take place, in many senses, they’re actually the safest places to be in the city with testing and precautions in place,” he says.

Clockenflap Music and Arts Festival last took place in 2018, with the final pre-coronavirus edition (2019) cancelled at the last minute due to pro-democracy protests in the former British territory, which has been a special administrative region of communist China since 1997.

The 2020 and 2021 editions were both cancelled due to strict restrictions on large-scale outdoor events.

“I’m guessing it will be five or six years before attending two concerts a month will be back on the agenda for most people”

In the absence of the flagship festival, the Clockenflap Presents team organised a one-day festival, Long Time No See, last August in Mongkok.

Sweeting says that returning to live was his biggest highlight of 2021: “Seeing what live returns can look like in real life and that it is possible to hold events, both large and small, within a pandemic if the suitable precautions and steps are taken.”

He hastens to point out that one of the biggest challenges the market currently faces is navigating the patchwork of restrictions and requirements across the region.

“If an artist is up for spending quarantine time, there’s a captured market available! Otherwise, a challenge we face across Asia as a region is that different countries are opening up at different times and rates with different requirements,” he explains.

With that in mind, Hosking says it could take half a decade for the industry to return to 2019 levels of activity.

“I’m guessing that following the ‘dead cat bounce’ it will be five or six years before attending two concerts a month will be back on the agenda for most people – especially those who’ve not earned and saved on full salaries these past two years. I hope I’m WRONG!” he says.

“The pandemic is both dynamic and endemic and so isn’t going to just disappear any time,” adds Sweeting.

 


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ILMC 32 unveils third wave of speakers

A diverse and international group of industry professionals make up the latest round of speakers for the International Live Music Conference (ILMC) and Futures Forum, which take place in London in March.

The group, which join previously announced panel chairs and workshop hosts, as well as many high-profile guest speakers, includes representatives from Live Nation, ICM Partners, Paradigm, the O2 Arena, Fullsteam, Solo Agency and many more.

A highly international delegation of speakers come together for The Global Marketplace: Games without frontiers session, with representatives from Live Nation Asia, Korea’s International Creative Agency, UAE’s Flash Entertainment, Brazil’s Live Talentos and Singapore’s Midas Promotions, as well as a Kenyan-based agent from Austria’s Georg Leitner Productions.

Futures Forum is back with a bang on Friday 6 March, after a successful debut outing last year. The OK, Boomer: Closing the generation gap panel sees Live Nation’s Phil Bowdery and Anna-Sophie Mertens, ICM Partners’ Scott Mantell and Kevin Jergenson, and CAA’s Maria May and Jen Hammel join forces in an all-new session pairing up senior executives with their more junior counterparts.

Futures Forum is back with a bang, after a highly successful debut outing last year

More highlights on the future-focused day include the Meet the New Bosses: Class of 2020 session, chaired by Ticketmaster’s Jo Young, and featuring new bosses Charly Beedell-Tuck (Solo Agency), Matt Pickering-Copley (Primary Talent International) and Marc Saunders (the O2), three of the list of twelve future live music industry leaders selected by ILMC and IQ Magazine this year.

Following on from last year’s thought-provoking panel on wellbeing, the Mental Health: Next steps for live discussion, led by ATC Live’s Stacey Pragnell, will feature guest speakers Adam Ficek (Babyshambles/Music & Mind), Richard Mutimer (Paradigm), Aino-Maria Paasivirta (Fullsteam Agency) and Joe Hastings (Help Musicians) and look at how to formulate a healthier and happier industry for the future.

With over 100 speakers and 40 sessions over the whole conference, there are plenty of big names and exciting details left to be announced in the coming weeks.

The full ILMC agenda can be viewed here, with the Futures Forum programme available here.

ILMC is taking place from 3 to 6 March at the Royal Garden Hotel in London. Companies supporting this year’s conference include Live Nation, Ticketmaster, Eventim, WME, Universe, Livestyled, Tysers, Joy Station, Mojo Rental and Showsec.

 


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Judge sides with LAMC in Singapore court battle

A legal battle between two of Singapore’s biggest concert promoters, Midas Promotions and LAMC Productions, has come to an end.

Midas, led by managing director Michael Hosking, announced in February it was suing local rival LAMC for 50% of the profits from two LAMC-promoted shows by Canadian comedian Russell Peters – estimated at at least S$500,000 – for which it said the two companies had agreed to jointly bid, putting up US$200,000 each in return for a 50-50 split of the profits and withdrawing any existing offers.

Midas claimed in court that LAMC failed both to submit an identical bid and to withdraw an existing offer for Peters, violating the terms of the alleged verbal agreement between the two companies.

A judge found that LAMC upheld their end of the agreement and ordered Midas to pay its legal costs

However, Singaporean district judge Koh Juay Kherng found last Thursday (7 July) that LAMC upheld their end of the agreement – and revealed that Midas had not even put in a bid to withdraw – and ordered Midas to pay LAMC’s legal costs.

Midas produced as evidence a letter from Peters’s manager – his brother, Clayton – stating that “Hoskings [sic] tried to bully his way into a joint venture with LAMC Productions when it became clear to him that he was not going to get the show”. He added that “I did not want Midas promotions involved in the show!” and recommended that its “frivolous claim” be “dismissed”.

IQ has contacted Hosking for comment.

Peters’s two shows, at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 5 and 6 May 2012, sold over 18,000 tickets, making them the highest-grossing comedy shows ever held in Asia.

 


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